January has been a transformative month, not just for teams with playoff aspirations, but for players whose names have popped up in trade rumors throughout the season.
Not only do these players have appealing contracts that expire at the conclusion of the season, but they are talents who could realistically change the postseason fortunes of contenders in either conference.
Whether it's a pair of overachieving Philadelphia 76ers or a couple of overlooked swingmen, several intriguing contributors have boosted their trade value at just the right time.
With the Feb. 20 trade deadline looming, we're here to break down what each of these players has done to enhance their standing in the eyes of prospective buyers.
On a team largely devoid of creative off-the-dribble decision-makers, Evan Turner has become the Philadelphia 76ers' go-to scoring option under first-year head coach Brett Brown.
A beneficiary of the Sixers' newly installed uptempo, run-and-gun philosophy, Turner's scoring numbers have ballooned during his fourth year in the City of Brotherly Love, which must have general manager Sam Hinkie salivating as the trade deadline approaches.
The Sixers' leading scorer, Turner is averaging a career-high 18.5 points on 43.8 percent shooting and recently turned in a career-best 34-point outing (on 13-of-22 shooting) against the New York Knicks on Jan. 22.
It remains unclear whether Hinkie will be able to cajole a contender into coughing up a first-round pick for Turner. The former No. 2 overall selection is a restricted free agent at season's end and will be due a qualifying offer worth $8.7 million over the summer, money that the Sixers presumably won't want to give to a high-usage, low-efficiency possession killer.
Turner could certainly be helpful as a sixth man to a playoff hopeful, as common sense suggests that his days in Philadelphia may be numbered. If that's ultimately the case, it would be in Hinkie's best interest to get some return value and aggressively move to deal Turner as the trade deadline approaches.
With one of the more attractive contracts on the trade block, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and his $3.3 million annual salary through 2014-15 could be a sought-after commodity in the coming weeks.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley, interested parties have been phoning the Bulls of late to inquire about their three-point marksman. At least four teams have called about a possible deal, per Cowley.
‘‘The amount of rumors that are out there compared to the amount of times someone gets traded . . . it’s not even worth giving too much thought to,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘That’s the way you handle it.’’
The interest in Dunleavy makes complete sense. Not only is his contract manageable, but he's an unselfish floor-stretcher who is knocking down 41.3 percent of his three-point attempts and excels at swinging the ball on the perimeter.
Factor in that Dunleavy's scoring a season-high 13.2 points in January on 46.9 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from three, and his trade value has never been higher.
The tough task for contenders chasing Dunleavy's services will be piecing together a package attractive enough to make the Bulls' front office consider parting with a player who's been key to a 10-3 record in January.
If it wasn't clear already, the Philadelphia 76ers are primed to be one of the league's biggest sellers at the deadline.
Given the season Spencer Hawes is putting together, the sharpshooting center may be the Sixers' most valuable trade chip at this year's deadline.
Like Evan Turner, Hawes' numbers have inflated as he's been encouraged to shoot when open, no matter where he is on the floor. In addition to averaging a career-high 13.8 points per game, Hawes is knocking down a staggering 41 percent of his threes on an average of four attempts per game from beyond the arc.
Buyers will need to beware Hawes' liabilities on the defensive end, but those in need of a versatile scoring weapon on a half-season rental know what they're getting themselves into.
Considering his contract is up at season's end, Hawes could be a sneaky-good buy for playoff contenders in need of a floor-stretching big off the bench.
Entering the 2013-14 season, it appeared as though Trevor Ariza's days with the Washington Wizards were numbered due to the arrival of No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter.
However, after some strong play during the season's first half, Ariza may find himself on the move for a number of different reasons. Here's one of them, courtesy of Bleacher Report's Bryan Toporek:
His contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 season, so this next month will be the Wizards' last chance to cash in on Ariza before potentially losing him in free agency for nothing. Seeing as the team signed Martell Webster to a four-year, $22 million deal during the 2013 offseason and drafted Otto Porter with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ariza's long-term future in Washington appears tenuous at best.
The other big reason Ariza's stock is soaring: He's proven to be a reliable perimeter weapon on the offensive end, where he's shooting a career-best 39.8 percent from three.
Advanced metrics tell the same story: Thus far, Ariza has cooked up a true shooting percentage of 58.1 and an effective field-goal percentage of 55.1, both of which are career highs.
Examining Ariza's shot chart, it's evident that the three has been his saving grace, as the Washington swingman is shooting well below the league average inside the arc.
There have been no concrete reports of late to suggest that Pau Gasol will be on the move come Thursday, Feb. 20, but if the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in getting solid return value for the impending unrestricted free agent, now would be the time to consider a deal.
The Spaniard has been on an offensive tear in January and in his last 10 games in particular. Following Sunday's showdown with the New York Knicks, Gasol has scored at least 20 points in eight straight games. He's averaging more than 20 points and 12 rebounds this month, which is five points and nearly two boards better than any of his previous monthly averages this season.
And given that his scoring proficiency has been markedly improved over the last 26 days, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Gasol produced a season-high 106.4 points per 100 possessions in the month of January.
Another tidbit to consider: Gasol's post shooting splits are comparable to the league average between 16-24 feet and in the paint, each of which are higher than his marks from those same spots last season.
Even if the Toronto Raptors choose to hold on to point guard Kyle Lowry, there's no doubt that he boosted his trade value considerably with All-Star caliber play this season.
According to a report from ESPN's Marc Stein earlier this month, the Raptors have yet to make a final call regarding Lowry's status, but they appear to be leaning toward keeping him given the team's current standing in the Eastern Conference:
For the first time, there are certifiable rumbles emanating from Toronto suggesting that the Raptors might well keep point guard Kyle Lowry for the rest of the season. Word is new GM Masai Ujiri continues to resist locking into any sort of firm position -- leaving open the possibility of a Lowry deal if the offers suddenly get sweeter -- but team officials appear to be growing increasingly comfortable with the idea that it’s better to go for what would be just Toronto's third playoff berth in 13 seasons rather than try to do the absolute uber-tanking it would take from here for the 17-17 Raps to get into Andrew Wiggins range now.
While it's easy to become enamored with Lowry's offensive numbers (16 points, 7.5 assists, a PER of 19.6 and a career-high offensive rating of 121), his play on the defensive end has been superlative as well.
One of the league's best defensive point guards, Lowry is tying his career-best defensive rating of 104 and has been spectacular this month, posting a season-high net rating of 4.7.
With his value skyrocketing, the Raptors have to be intrigued by the possibility that they could net a nice return for their star point guard, but buyers may ultimately be wary of shelling out for Lowry because his contract is set to expire at season's end.
Either way, Lowry figures to earn a hefty raise this summer.